(Scott AFB, IL) Hi 59 Lo 52 -- Yesterday was a crazy and exciting day in more ways than one. We were up with the sun to get to our son Frank's in time to go watch grandson Kendall play in a basketball double header. It was about an hour away in one of the western suburbs of St. Louis. There's major road construction going on just across the main bridge in downtown St. Louis, and all lanes of I-64 were closed temporarily. We took a route through East St Louis to get to an alternate bridge to cross the river. There was almost no traffic and hardly any people out and about, so we were able to make good time as we went through that blighted city. When we go to downtown St. Louis we noticed they too have a lot of empty storefronts. A sign of the times I guess.
The basketball games were great! Kendall plays on a fourth grade team, but he's in the third grade and they're very well coached. It's amazing the moves they can make and still get the basketball into the hoop way over their heads. After all, a 10-foot hoop is a lot higher up to these boys than it is for college and pro players. :) Kendall's team, the Junior Panthers, lost the first game against much taller fourth grade players, but they won the second game against normal-sized fourth graders. We had a good time. There's still a few more games we'll be going to.
After the games we went to lunch at "Cheeseburger Cheeseburger," a retro burger joint in a nearby mall. The food was great.
We got back to Frank and Angie's house a little before our younger son Rick, wife Laura, and sons Joey and Jack arrived from Chicago to join us for the weekend. The rest of the afternoon we visited and enjoyed some great family togetherness. The kids played outside, where it was very warm and humid. We were passing time waiting for the time to leave for Frank's birthday dinner at Lemp Mansion in St Louis. All of a sudden a nearby tornado warning siren went off. Frank lives just a block or so from the siren, so it was LOUD! We didn't know there was any severe weather on the way. At first Frank wasn't concerned because he said the siren has gone off before for false warnings. We turned on the TV to a local channel and learned there was a tornado sighted just a few miles from us.
This is what I saw when I checked outside the door. It was just starting to rain.
Angie got a phone call from her brother in nearby Caseville and he told us to get to the basement, so we all went downstairs. It wasn't long before we heard the rain. The front door and garage doors on Frank's house are at ground level between the upper and lower floors, so we all crept up to watch the action in the front yard. Soon the kids starting yelling about hail. The rain turned to small hail, like you see in most severe storms, then it started getting bigger and bigger. It lasted at least 15 minutes, and started getting scary. We're talking HUGE hailstones!
Some were as big as baseballs like in the photos above, and most were the size of golf balls. We stood in the garage watching, and taking pictures and video with our cameras and smart phones. It was amazing how it sounded... loud cracks as the hail hit the roof and sides of the house.
When it finally stopped we took Rick us to the base to check on the condition of our RV. Fortunately, they didn't get the very large hail on the base that we got at Frank's, but we did have a broken cover on the fantastic vent in our bathroom. We keep those stuffed pillow-looking pads in our two vents to keep out heat and cold, so it absorbed most of the rainwater. There wasn't more than a few drips that got through, and they fell on the top of the toilet seat. It wan't serious enough that we had to do anything right away, so we went back to Frank's and prepared to leave for dinner.
We left about 5:30pm and the severe weather was over, thank goodness. It was still raining pretty hard though. While making our way on the interstate, Frank shouted that a car was spinning behind us. Rick and Laura (in the back seat of our mini-van) turned around and saw the car spin around and hit the cement retaining wall. Wild! There was another siren going off in the St. Louis area, but we got to Lemp Mansion just as there was a lull in the rain, but later we could hear more wind, rain and hail going on outside.
We had a group of 18 that were invited to help us celebrate Frank's birthday. Lemp Mansion is one of those "Mystery Dinner Theater" places, where they enact a "whodunnit" play during your meal.
Our group made up about half the total people in our room, and everyone at the dinner gets a part to play. It was fun, and we recommend it as something you should experience at least once. The different courses of the meal (which was very good by the way) was served to us in between the different acts of the play.
Angie's brother brought a birthday cake for Frank.
We had an uneventful trip back across the river to Illinois. When we got up this morning we noticed some minor hail dents on my car, but they're not very noticeable. Thankfully no breaks in the paint. And we did learn that a large tent in downtown St. Louis, which was part of the celebration of the St. Louis Blues playoff game that evening, blew down killing one person and injuring many more. That was sad to hear.
Today was a little more quiet. We all gathered at Cracker Barrel for breakfast, then afterward we said our goodbyes to Rick and Laura as they left to go back to Chicago. We have some more activities planned today, which we'll cover in tomorrow's blog. Then hopefully we'll be back to reporting on the CURRENT day's activities, rather than being a day behind. :)